Carolyn and I both appreciate William Blake’s divinely inspired artwork and magnificent poetry.
Born in London in 1757, Blake was an English poet, painter, prophet, and printmaker known for his extraordinary visionary paintings, lithographs, drawings, and numerous volumes of beautiful mystical poems.
Blake attended school just long enough to learn how to read and write. He read widely on his own and was exposed to many bound books and prints by his parents. At the age of ten, his parents arranged for him to take drawing classes, and he went on to become a professional engraver. In 1779 he enrolled as a student at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, where he studied for six years.
From a young age, and throughout his life, Blake claimed to see visions of a spiritual nature. The visions were often associated with religious themes and imagery; he claimed to see angels too. As a Romantic artist and poet, Blake stressed the primacy of individual imagination and inspiration to the creative process. He believed that imaginative insight was the only way to remove the veil of rational thought that obscures the true nature of reality, claiming that “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ narrow chinks of his cavern.”
Blake’s extraordinary paintings depict powerful biblical and literary scenes, glorious angels, and radiant illuminated beings, while his poems speak out against social injustices and express mystical visions. Blake illustrated his poems and created beautiful books, such as Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, by integrating writing and painting into a single creative process and using innovative production techniques that combined image and text in single compositions.
Blake’s spiritual visions and insights were central to his creativity, and in his work, he created a complex and unique mythology, with a pantheon populated by deities such as Orc, Urizen, and Enitharmion. Blake illustrated spectacular grand narratives of his own design that were played out in a universe that seemed to exist in a separate reality.
Blake didn’t have it easy. His contemporaries considered him insane, and his lack of commercial success meant he lived in relative poverty. But today he is appreciated as a seminal figure in the history of poetry and visual art of the Romantic Age. Blake died in 1827, with his beloved wife by his side.
Some quotes that William Blake is remembered for include:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind.
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way. Some see nature all ridicule and deformity… and some scarce see nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, nature is imagination itself.
Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?